“We will not discuss my wife,” he said. “Tell me what you have been doing, Laura. Let me see, when did I see you last—in June?”
And the venom came to boiling-point in Laura’s adder gland. He could not even remember when he had said good-by to her! It was in July, after the Eton and Harrow match!
“Yes, in June,” she said sadly, turning her eyes down. “And you might have told me, Tristram. It came as such a sudden shock. It made me seriously ill. You must have known, and were probably engaged—even then.”
Tristram sat mute; for how could he announce the truth?
“Oh, don’t let us talk of these things, Laura. Let us forget those old times and begin again—differently. You will be a dear friend to me always, I am sure. You always were—” and then he stopped abruptly. He felt this was too much lying! and he hated doing such things.
“Of course I will, dar—Tristram,” Laura said, and appeared much moved.
And from where Zara was trying to talk to the Duke she saw the woman shiver and look down provokingly and her husband stretch his long limbs out; and a sudden, unknown sensation of blinding rage came over her, and she did not hear a syllable of the Duke’s speech.
Meanwhile Lady Anningford had retired to a seat in a window with the Crow.
“Is it all right, Crow?” she asked, and one of his peculiarities was to understand her—as Lady Ethelrida understood the Duke—and and not ask “What?”
“Will be—some day—I expect—unless they get drowned in the current first.”
“Isn’t she mysterious, Crow? I am sure she has some tragic history. Have you heard anything?”
“Husband murdered by another man in a row at Monte Carlo.”
“I don’t know for a fact, but I gather—not. You may be certain, Queen Anne, that when a woman is as quiet and haughty as Lady Tancred looks, and her manners are as cold and perfectly sure of herself as hers are, she has not done anything she is ashamed of, or regrets.”
“Then what can be the cause of the coolness between them? Look at Tristram now! I think it is horrid of him—sitting like that talking to Laura, don’t you?”
“A viper, Laura,” growled the Crow. “She’s trying to get him again in the rebound.”
“I cannot imagine why women cannot leave other women’s husbands alone. They are hateful creatures, most of them.”
“Natural instinct of the chase,” said Colonel Lowerby.
But Lady Anningford flashed.
“You are a cynic, Crow.”
* * * * *
“And you will really show me your favorite haunts to-morrow, Lady Ethelrida?” Francis Markrute was saying to his hostess. He had contrived insidiously to detach her conversation from a group to himself, and drew her unconsciously towards a seat where they would be uninterrupted. “One judges so of people by their tastes in haunts.”